Who makes the cut in our composite XV after the first round of pool matches?
Women’s Rugby World Cup Team of Week One
What a weekend it was! The 2022 Rugby World Cup kicked off in front of a record crowd at Eden Park before moving to the Northland Events Centre in Whangarei – and the teams produced some incredible rugby.
As expected, France, England and New Zealand won their games on the opening day, although none of those sides had it all their own way. Then Italy, Canada and Wales emerged victorious on day two.
But who were the standout performers from the opening round? There were tough decisions to be made in putting together this composite team from the six matches – let us know your thoughts by emailing email@example.com
Women’s Rugby World Cup Team of Week One
15. Roela Radiniyavuni (Fiji)
Oh how the Fijians lit up Eden Park in their first-ever women’s World Cup match. They have quickly become fans’ favourites with their attacking intent and willingness to run from anywhere – and their full-back epitomises that.
It was her break on the half-hour mark against England that created their opening try for Alowesi Nakoci and she looked dangerous whenever she had the ball.
14. Ruby Tui (New Zealand)
Tui was both creator and scorer in the Black Ferns’ opening win against Australia.
It was her interplay with Stacey Fluhler on the right wing that kick-started the hosts’ comeback after finding themselves 17-0 down and she was involved in the build-up to the second and fourth tries too, proving a constant threat with ball in hand (she made 133m and was the only player to break the three-figure mark).
Then she rounded out an impressive performance by running in two tries in the last 12 minutes. Little wonder she was Player of the Match!
13. Stacey Fluhler (New Zealand)
Let’s be honest, Fluhler would likely have got into this team purely for the sublime offload she produced to set up Portia Woodman’s hat-trick try.
Yet she delivered so much more in NZ’s first game, launching attacks through the middle and out wide. She beat five defenders in all (only Tui beat more) and had a 100% tackle success rate.
Such a solid presence in midfield for Wales. She made a couple of breaks here and had deft touches there, but what stood out the most was when the game appeared to be slipping away from her team, she remained cool and composed – her dealings with the referee were smart too.
And then she backed Keira Bevan to slot the winning penalty with the final kick of the match.
11. Aura Muzzo (Italy)
There were plenty of impressive wingers on display in Auckland and Whangarei over the weekend and Claudia MacDonald can consider herself unlucky not to make the cut after scoring four tries in England’s win over Fiji.
However, we’re giving the nod to Italy’s Aura Muzzo (albeit that we’re shifting her from the left to right wing in this ‘dream team’). Not only did she score two tries in Italy’s 22-10 victory over the USA but she stood out in defence too.
There was one moment in the first half when Alev Kelter looked set to build up a head of steam when collecting a clearance kick, but Muzzo, despite the considerable size difference, stopped her in her tracks.
10. Ruahei Demant (New Zealand)
First she led the Black Ferns in an emotional haka – if you haven’t seen it yet check it out on our day one highlights as it is special. Then she led her team to a comeback victory over the Wallaroos.
This display was not so much about producing the spectacular, although her break to set up Portia Woodman’s second try would have got bums off seats, but being the steady, calming influence at fly-half. And her distribution is spot-on.
9. Megumi Abe (Japan)
We may have found our new favourite player! Yes, Abe was part of a team comfortably beaten by Canada but what an impression she made in the 65 minutes she was on the pitch.
We’re used to seeing Japan men’s scrum-halves with quick, slick delivery from the base and the same is true of Abe for the women. She made 51 passes in the game – 21 more than opposite number Brianna Miller, who deserves an honourable mention here – but, perhaps more noteworthy, is the fact she was Japan’s second highest tackler with 13.
She may be only 4ft 9in and 8st 5lb (perhaps the smallest player at this World Cup) but she makes a big impact. As her coach Lesley McKenzie told us afterwards: “She’s worked on her understanding of how to influence a game in attack and defence. She’s aggressive in contact and with ball in hand.”
1. Hope Rogers (USA)
It was a disappointing day for the Eagles, a malfunctioning lineout meaning they couldn’t build a platform in their match against Italy, but Rogers was someone who continued to fight for every scrap of grass.
She made more tackles than anyone else on the pitch – 19, with no misses – and won the most turnovers, too, with four.
2. Emily Tuttosi (Canada)
The driving maul was something of a feature of the weekend, with Canada and England particular masters of the craft.
It was Tuttosi who reaped the rewards of Canada’s set-piece excellence (they had 100% success at lineout and scrum against Japan). The hooker finished off two tries from the back of a rolling maul in the first half and completed her hat-trick early in the second when burrowing over from close range after a series of pick-and-goes on the line.
3. Babalwa Latsha (South Africa)
It probably seems strange for us to put in a player from a South Africa team that were heavily beaten by France, particularly when no French players have been selected, but we thought the work-rate and physicality the Boks brought to the opening game of the tournament deserved recognition. Especially when they were competitive for such a long period of the game (France only pulled away in the last 15 minutes).
Latsha and her fellow forwards caused France numerous problems at scrum time and the contact area. And she played the full 80 minutes – a rarity for a front-rower in the modern game.
The Red Roses’ maul is such a destructive attacking weapon – it played a part in a handful of their 14 tries – and Ward is at the heart of it.
She won eight lineouts against Fijiana, made 13 tackles with 100% success rate (only her second-row partner Zoe Aldcroft made more for England) and scored a try. Dominant.
5. Sara Tounesi (Italy)
Promoted from the bench after a late injury to Giordana Duca, she may have wanted to prove why she should have been in the starting line-up originally – and she certainly did!
One of Italy’s top tacklers, she helped to keep the USA on the back foot and also proved a powerful carrier, making yards in tight spaces.
She ultimately ended up on the losing team, in heart-breaking style once again for Scotland, but Malcolm delivered a real captain’s performance.
On top of an incredible 24 tackles, she was part of a pack that splintered Wales at the scrum and the maul in the second half at Northland Events Centre as their forward dominance helped them draw level in the last minute, only to be beaten by a penalty when the clock was in the red.
7. Sadia Kabeya (England)
After fumbling a restart early on against Fiji, the Red Roses flanker recovered quickly and barely put a foot wrong for the rest of the match.
She beat more defenders (five) than any other forward, made ten tackles, set up Helena Rowland’s try with a brilliant break and was constantly putting pressure on at the breakdown.
Italy’s Giada Franco and Wales’ Alex Callender challenged for this shirt on the second day but Kabeya had done just enough to keep hold of the spot.
8. Sophie de Goede (Canada)
Fulfilling a family legacy by following both her parents in captaining Canada at a Rugby World Cup, the No 8 also proved just what an exceptional athlete she is.
The back-rower has an incredible skill-set – within seconds of kicking a conversion she would be showing pure athleticism to win a restart. In attack, she made more metres (105) than any other player on the pitch while in defence, only Sara Kaljuvee made more tackles for Canada. A true all-rounder.
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